Bedbug Battle At Wichita State

11/11/2010


By Brian Heap KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
6:37 p.m. CST, November 11, 2010

On a typical fall morning in November, students at the Wheatshocker Apartments make their trek to morning classes. As they're leaving the WSU dorm, exterminator Ed Meis is walking in. He's hauling in a high-powered portable heater, one of four he'll need today. The heaters aren't needed because the building is too cold; they're needed to kill bedbugs.

"There's one right there" shouts Meis as he inspects the mattress and box spring in a second floor apartment. Meis isn't startled at all. He sees the creepy little blood suckers every day and has become quite good at getting rid of them.

"We just make an environment the bedbugs can't live in," he says, while prepping the room for a thermal eradication. Heaters will be used to bring the room's temperature to a sizzling 120 plus degrees and maintain it for about four hours. The extreme heat will eventually overwhelm bedbugs hidden throughout the room, killing them and any eggs they've left behind.

Outside the apartment, students walk by with little or no worry of the bedbug treatment underway. A reporter asks if they're concerned or freaked out by the presence of blood sucking insects in their residence hall. Mostly, the students shrug it off as no big deal.

"I try to keep my room very clean and orderly and I wash my sheets on a regular basis. so I'm not too worried as far as that goes," says student Sean Forristal. He adds that residence hall staffers do a good job of keeping students informed.

"I think Wichita State has really taken a proactive stance to get ahead of the problem before it gets out of hand," says Meis. His company is on campus at least once a week checking for bedbugs and can usually treat an outbreak within 24 hours of finding it.

WSU tells Factfinder 12 Investigators it has been aware of bedbugs at Wheatshocker Apartments since 2007 and is proud of the efforts it has made to control the problem. Assistant Director for Housing and Residence Life, John Sandlin, issued the following statement via email:

"We have received feedback from parents and students alike that appreciate our proactive approach (bedbug dogs, inspections, education, etc.) and how quickly we respond. The vast majority of residents are very cooperative with the treatment process and are appreciate [sic] of our efforts. In general, parents just want to know that something is being done and that HRL is putting forth its best effort to take care of their child."

WSU could not say how much money the university is spending to treat bed bugs because it is tied with a larger campus wide pest control contract.

According to pest experts, the presence of bedbugs in multi-unit housing such as dorms, apartments, or hotels is due mainly to their transient nature. In other words, different people are always coming and going and the same place is rarely occupied by the same person for a long period of time. The presence of bedbugs doesn't necessarily mean a place is dirty or unsanitary.

Meis thinks most people would be surprised to learn how steady the bedbug killing business can be. "I have two trailers just like this. I can do two heat jobs a day. And I have both trailers busy between the four states that I cover every day." Meis doesn't think bedbugs are going away anytime soon.

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